The Burnout Boom; Boredom, Burnout and Boundaries, Part 2.


Burnout, we’re hearing a lot about it lately. Is this a new phenomenon or has it always been around in different guises. Hard to say but what we do know is this…….

High Achievers share many things in common – a strive for excellence, high standards, strong work ethic, a constant desire to seek more and more, a thirst for achievement, a belief that they can do it all……..they also share a risk of crashing out due to burnout. 

What is this thing we call Burnout exactly?

You don’t just wake up one day and suddenly you’re ‘burnt out’. 

Burn out is a gradual process that slowly builds and eventually affects your ability to function well, both at work and at home. 

So, what does Burnout look and feel like? 

Generally speaking it’s about total exhaustion.

When full burn out hits you’ll be physically and emotionally drained and find it hard to get through the day, but in the early stages this is likely to show up as a general lack of energy and feeling tired. Accompanying this exhaustion is also insomnia. Those moments where work prevents you from falling to sleep a few nights a week turns into consistent periods of the night where you can’t sleep, regardless of how exhausted you are. 

When you’re in work, you’ll feel under pressure to perform and when you’re not in work you can’t stop thinking about it. 

It’s a 24/7 battle where work penetrates every part of your life. 

It affects your relationships at home, your friendships and most likely you’ll start to neglect yourself. This may start with letting your hobbies slip away, and progress to a general lack of motivation about doing anything. 

If these symptoms aren’t enough take, a look at the rest of this list: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Lack of concentration
  • Your performance at work slips
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cynicism 

Burnout is one of those things that many high achievers don’t see coming. 

High Achievers are generally used to working long hours, so when they begin to feel exhausted it’s easy to make excuses about why this may be. 

They’re are also used to taking on more and more and believing that they can achieve the impossible, so it’s normal to experience a certain amount of pressure to perform. 

It’s not until something happens that you start to wake up and pay attention.

And what is that something? 

I’ve heard many stories. Big arguments in the office, boozy flare ups at work social functions, messing up big deals or projects, complete breakdowns resulting in an inability to go into work. 

Hindsight is a wonderful thing when it comes to Burnout. 

You may think that you’re not susceptible to burnout. 

Perhaps you have no history with mental health challenges. When you look at people who struggle with stress in the workplace, you know that you should feel more empathy but somehow you just can’t relate. 

Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones, but if you notice any of the following, you’re only a few challenges away from feeling the pinch of burnout

Do you ……..

  • have very limited interests outside of work
  • drink alcohol most nights of the week to help you wind down
  • have no ‘me time’ in your life
  • rarely ask for help 
  • keep your emotions to yourself, particularly when you’re struggling
  • feel unappreciated
  • clash with key people in your workplace (particularly your line manager)
  • lack an extensive support network (friends/family)
  • continue to take on more and more
  • have few boundaries and respond to emails and phone calls around the clock
  • struggle to say no
  • struggle to rest

Burnout is an extreme end of the spectrum, it’s clearly something to avoid, but keeping a healthy mind and body is something we should all be paying attention to. So how do we do that in a world which doesn’t stop. 

1. Have some good boundaries in place

I’ll be writing more on boundaries next week, but for now, just know that it’s good practice to have some time that is a no work zone. This means no laptop, no phone, no distraction from “life” (that thing that happens when you’re not working)

2. Remember to breathe

Stop and get a coffee, take a short walk outside, eat lunch away from your desk. I’ve talked about micro moments in previous blog posts – here’s a link to one such one Slow Down – How to be calm even when you’re busy.

Micro moments are small, manageable moments where you step away from the mayhem that may be happening around you. They don’t have to be long, but to maintain a healthy mind and attitude to work I’d say they are necessary.

3. Ask for help

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. We are all humans, we all bleed the same. If you’ve taken on too much take courage and admit it. When you find yourself struggling, approach someone and share this. You need to be braver to admit when times are rough than to just bury your head in the sand and carry on

4. Learn to say ‘No”

Sounds so easy, but can be so hard. I say this a lot “when you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else” and in the case of burnout this is often your mental health. 

Saying no doesn’t have to be rude. Find a way that works for you, for example “I’d love to help you. Is this a priority? If so, I’ll find a way to fit it in and I’m going to need to let go of something else”

5. Do the deep work

Why are you burning out? Do you notice a pattern that repeats itself? Is this specific to this job/role/client/employer? What’s the learning in this for you? 

You may not be able to do this piece in the thick of burnout but if you’re noticing signs then take time now to reflect. If you’re recovering from burnout, don’t dive back in until you’ve understood what happened. 

Life is too short to spend it doing something that takes your health. Get to know what you want and need to lead a full life – this includes a job you love, with a life that is well lived.

Want to make a start on that? Download my leaders guide below now. 



The Leaders Guide to Finding Passion and Purpose in your work

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